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How to avoid fakes

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With the Trading Standard Institute warning consumers to keep their eye out for scammers this Christmas, we tell you how to spot a fake online.

The internet is a great place to bag a Christmas bargain – especially if your other half is hinting that a high-end item like a leather bag or a piece of vintage jewellery would be a welcome gift – but with millions items listed on eBay at any one time a percentage are sure to be counterfeit.

But how do you avoid dropping your hard-earned cash on a fake item? Follow these easy tips:

Choose carefully

Auction websites like eBay inspire a sort of insanity, pressuring you to part with your money before someone else can snag what looks like the item of your dreams. But stay calm and take your time, examining the listings carefully. High value items are harder to move than low priced items, so relax: You have time to make an informed decision.

Before you fall in love with a particular item make yourself familiar with the average asking prices and the details of the real deal. That way you can weed out items likely to be fake or damaged. Bargain-basement prices are a serous red flag.

If you’re looking at jewellery, Samantha Lilley, director of valuations at, recommends checking the settings and the depths of the stones.Peeling pearls will be replicas – real pearls will never peel – while tarnished settings indicate that the piece is likely plated. Also double check images of the gems against pictures of real stones. Paste or glass stones are easy to spot because they lack the depth of diamonds and other gems.

Look closely

If several different sellers are using the same image it is likely a stock image, and the item in the photo is unlikely to be the real item for sale.

Only consider items with individual photos from many different angles. Scrupulous sellers with the real deal will be eager to prove it to you in photos; often there will by many detailed photos and close-ups of identifying characteristics like labels, tags and logos. Of course this is no guarantee of authenticity, but at least you’ll know what the item you’re buying actually looks like.

Grill your seller

Feedback is a vital part of eBay success. If previous buyers have been happy with their items it’s likely that you will be happy wiht yours.

Also don’t be afraid to ask questions about the provenance of the item you’re about to buy. A seller with an actual designer handbag, for example, should be able to provide documentation to that effect.

Samantha Lilley has seen her fair share of fake designer handbags in her role at She says: “The Hermes Birkin bag in particular is exceptionally sought after, but buyer beware – there are myriad fakes and replicas flooding the market, from the primitive to the exquisite. Provenance is imperative when purchasing so always buy from authentic dealers and respected auction houses.”

Pay wisely

The use of PayPal is fairly widespread in internet shopping, but you may not have heard of Escrow. This payment system withholds your payment until the item is received and you’re happy with it. While many experts would recommend that you buy high-value items in person, eBay is a global game and that isn’t always possible. Escrow is an added layer of security when an in-person examination simply isn’t possible.

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